How to Wear the Regencycore Trend

A fashion historian tells all.



Since debuting in 2020, Netflix’s Bridgerton—based on the series of romance novels by Julia Quinn— has put a spotlight on the Regency era. But it’s not just the social customs and history of the time that are getting attention. It’s the fashion too.

The style in Bridgerton has been one of the biggest trend drivers over the past few years, influencing designers to take inspiration from the Regency era. It has prompted the popularity of corsets, empire waist mini dresses, and opera gloves, which are some of the sartorial protagonists in the show. Still, while the series is set in this time period, its costumes take some historical liberties. Fashion historian and curator Sarah Scaturro says that the textiles, for example, feel more Victorian, given their elaborate ornamentations and bright colors.



What Is Regency Fashion?

When we talk about the Regency era, it refers to the period between 1811 and 1820, when England was ruled by George IV, Prince of Wales, after his father George III was deemed unfit to govern due to mental illness. While the Regency era only spanned a decade, the term is also applied to a larger time period between 1795 and 1837.

Fashion trends during this time were heavily influenced by the pomposity of the 18th century, pushing society styles in the opposite direction, according to fashion curator Sarah Scaturro. “They’re looking back at classism and the Greeks, and what that means is that they’re pairing things down and looking into the essence of the human body,” Scaturro adds.

Contrary to the ostentatious fashion of the previous century, Regency-era fashion is streamlined to feature fewer decorations, while shifting its focus from enhancing the waist to highlighting the breasts. The style borrows from ancient Greek fashion with a column-shaped bodice and skirt that Scaturro says has “quite a lot of movement for a woman to be bending, moving, and walking.” Still, the gown had a corset-like device underneath, which helped mold the woman’s body into the ideal shape of the era. “The emphasis is to hold up and perk up the breasts and then to smooth the torso out so you can this lovely columnar silhouette,” says Scaturro. 



Core Elements of Regency Fashion

While the Regency period often gets mixed up with Victorian-era style, especially because of their closeness in the historical timeline, there are three distinct features of Bridgerton-era fashion:

Empire Line

The defining characteristic of Regency-era gowns is the empire line, which Scaturro describes as “just a very high waist.” This style deviates completely from the emphasis of the Victorian era, which was to create the illusion of a tiny waist via a corset and bustle skirt.


Previous eras saw the rise of heels, more specifically, the court of Louis XIV in France, but Regency fashion adopted flat shoes. Scaturro says that since gowns were made to stop around the ankles, footwear was visible, showing colorful and embroidered slippers.


Similar to corsets, stays were the shapewear of the Regency era, helping women give the illusion of the columnar silhouette that was popular at the time, as well as boost the chest. Scaturro says that the emphasis of stays is what differentiates stays from corsets, but that the use of both was similar throughout the 19th century.



How to Wear Regency Fashion Today

Fashion trends have leaned into Regency styles for years now. And it looks like there’s no end in sight. From corsets and puffed sleeves to ballet slippers, today’s must-have styles seem delivered straight from the 19th century. And while Scaturro says that Bridgerton’s costumes are not as historically accurate as other productions (she highlights Pride and Prejudice as a good example), she admits it’s still fun to mimic the sartorial grandeur of the series.

Going for an empire waist is one of the easiest ways to adopt the style of the period. It’s found in both tops and dresses, which have the columnar shape that Scaturro signaled as a Regency-era must-have. She also points out that the current ballet flat frenzy is another surefire way to channel this period, adding that it’s highly wearable. Puffed sleeves are another style that retains popularity from the Regency era, which are found today in viral mini dresses from brands like Selkie. And while corsets are not technically a Regency-era tool, it’s hard to ignore their popularity today. The key is to find one that highlights the breasts and enlarges the torso to mimic the Regency-era silhouette.

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